South Central Kentucky, where KRA operates the Youth Services Program (YSP) covering a seven-county area, is an extremely economically disadvantaged region. The economic downturn has resulted in even higher-than-usual unemployment, producing a crisis situation in the area. During December 2010, KRA/YSP staff and students focused their volunteer efforts on local projects in much need of community involvement and support.
A Brighter Christmas: Thanks to KRA Program Manager, Linda Cooper, and Career Counselors Danelle Coomer, Donna Grant, Barb Hettmansperger, and Kristy Tarter, seven YSP students and their families enjoyed a brighter Christmas than they had anticipated. Aware that these families were unable to afford anything beyond sheer necessities for their children, at their own expense KRA staff purchased food and created food baskets; collected and/or purchased toys for the younger children, mp3 players for the older youth, and clothing for the YSP students; and personally delivered their gifts to each family.
Holiday Helpline: Cooper and Tarter volunteered for the Taylor County Holiday Helpline, which consolidates the local Toys for Tots Drive, food basket donations, and other forms of community assistance for individuals and families in need. When people call, their contact information and request…toys/clothing for children and food baskets for families/the older population… are added to one data base at one location, thus eliminating duplication of services and ensuring that everyone with a need gets help. The Helpline was open December 6 – 10, from 8 am until 6 pm, with two people on duty at all times. If some volunteers did not show for their evening shifts, Cooper and Tarter stepped in to fill those time slots in addition to their own scheduled times.
Community Event Support: On the evening of December 7, Cooper, Coomer, Grant, and Tarter attended the Adair County Chamber of Commerce Christmas party, an annual community event sponsored by Lindsey Wilson College. Attendees included Chamber members and other business representatives, local and state politicians, and community agency representatives…individuals and organizations integral to the success of the YSP’s In-School program, as well as KRA’s highly successful summer jobs program, part of the WorkNow Kentucky initiative.
Nursing Home Surprise: During November and December, Cooper, Grant, Tarter, and 13 YSP students hand-made Christmas Cards for 125 residents of the local nursing home in Adair County. On the evening of December 21, the staff, along with 3 of the students, delivered the cards, talked with some of the residents, and distributed candy canes to each resident.
Critical Clothing Drive: Cooper, Coomer, Grant, Hettmansperger, and Tarter have been soliciting and collecting clothing for YSP students who do not have appropriate attire for job interviews and potential employment. Also, some of the YSP students need suitable clothes just to attend school, so the KRA team is identifying resources to fill that need as well.